Recently, Fr. Arkado spent a couple of days with our Christian community at Lormunyi in the mountains above Olbalbal. Now is the time of honey harvesting and Arkado went with the people into the forest for some honey collecting. On his return, he gave me the following description of his experience of Maasai honey harvesting.
The best time to collect honey is during September, October and November. The rains ended in May and then the wild flowers covered the opened spaces and many places in the forest. The young men wear clothing that leaves very little exposed skin and take rope buckets to receive the honey. Their first task is to climb the tree where they have placed their hive and to test the weight of the barrel shaped hive made by hollowing out at section of tree trunk. Modern box type hives are also used. If there is enough honey inside to make the arduous task of harvesting worthwhile, the men lower the hive with a rope attached to the beehive support. While that was going on, others have made a small fire and lighted a species of mushroom dried for some weeks. The dried mushroom burns slowly without flame and gives off acrid smoke that is directed into the hole of the beehive. This smoke is a powerful narcotic for the bees and puts the entire hive to sleep within about five minutes. The bees are out cold for at least a half hour.
The buckets of honey are then taken back to the village and put into a bucket with three bottoms. The first has small holes, the second has a fine net and the third receives to now clean honey free of wax, dead bees and dirt. Then the bucket is put into a bag and left it the sun for some days. The honey then is clean. If the honey is to be used for brewing honey beer for a feast, the unclean honey mixed with wax is used.